Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reassurance Seeking & OCD, Part 1

In the OCD treatment world, reassurance seeking is considered to be a big no-no. What is reassurance seeking? It's when you keep trying to find evidence that what you thought, did, said, or felt, is really ok. Reassurance seeking can take all kinds of forms. I was really, really good at getting reassurance without anyone else even knowing it.

Said by Monique. On more occasions
than she can remember
.
For example, if I was afraid that my cooking might have given someone food poisoning, rather than coming right out and asking my "victim" if he or she was ok (because deep down, I knew my question would make me look foolish), I would find a roundabout way to discover how they were feeling. I might say something like, "Hmm, my stomach seems a little upset." And then I would wait to see what the person's response was. If they didn't say, "Yeah, my stomach's upset too," then I would know they were ok. Sneaky, huh? Or if I thought someone might be mad at me for some reason, I would make up an excuse to call them or go see them, and I could tell by their response if they were upset with me or not. I wish I could remember all of the tricks I used. Some of them were pretty ingenious, if I say so myself!

Of course, I also did a lot of actual reassurance seeking from my family. "Are you sure I didn't hit someone with my car? Are you sure I didn't do the wrong thing by going out in public while I had a head cold (and I could have passed it on to someone and maybe they could die from it)? Are you sure I'm not a bad person?" On and on it went. My poor family.

We can also give ourselves reassurance, and that can be more difficult to spot. Saying things to ourselves like, "Oh, I'm sure I didn't cause a car accident because I can see in my rearview mirror that all of those cars behind me are still driving normally. They would all have pulled over if something really had happened." (That could be considered a mental compulsion and/or a checking compulsion.) Or, "My hands aren't really that dirty, so it's ok if I don't wash them."

Why is reassurance seeking taboo in the treatment of OCD? Because it is a compulsion and a form of enabling. Compulsions are actions that we perform (or covertly get others to perform!) in order to reduce our anxiety caused by the scary thoughts (obsessions). What's wrong with a compulsion? Unfortunately, for people with anxiety disorders, compulsions only make the obsessions worse. We might feel temporarily better, but it never lasts. And then we need to do more compulsions. It just doesn't stop. That is why we are taught in treatment to take a chance and live with uncertainty (as horribly painful as that is). It is only when we can live with uncertainty that anxiety stops taking control of our lives.

So instead of telling ourselves, "Well, my hands aren't that dirty," we could tell ourselves "Yes, my hands are dirty, and I'm just going to have to live with the consequences." Instead of seeking reassurance from friends and family, I could live with the possibility that maybe my food did cause someone to get sick. I could even learn to live with the idea that maybe I really am a bad person. (Oooh, that's a super tough one.)

Stopping all reassurance seeking is pretty hard-core ERP, and some experts do suggest it. But do we need to stop all reassurance seeking, right away? Do we even need to remove all reassurance seeking? Come back tomorrow and I'll share my thoughts about that with you.

8 comments:


  1. This is so great! I am adding it right away to my collection of reassurance seeking articles and am in the midst of preparing a list for the Yahoo OCD Support group so I will link this. I love the way you write. It's just so personal and from the heart. Can hardly wait for tomorrow! Thank you so much!

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    1. Aw thanks so much for your kind words, Carol! I'm really glad you found it helpful. I really appreciate the link as well.

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  2. This is great Monique! Check out my post today too - it correlates. Ugh, the battle of OCD compulsions. =( http://www.brokenbutadored.com/

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    1. Well hello there! Excited to see that you have started your own blog as well. I took a quick peak, and it looks really good. When I get a chance, I'll have to spend some more time exploring. Yes, battle is a good word for it.

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  3. GREAT post, Sunny! :). You bring up a very interesting point...while those of us without OCD can stop reassuring our loved ones, those with OCD have to work hard at not reassuring themselves. Looking forward to Part 2!

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    1. Thanks, Janet! Mental compulsions are so stinking sneaky. Half the time, I'm not even aware that I am doing them. It took me months of ERP before I was even aware that I did them at all.

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  4. Hi! So good to see a post from you! I agree that reassurance is a big one...as is avoidance for me. If I can avoid and get reassurance on things, that helps me in the short term, but it is definitely not helping me get rid of my OCD, which is what I ultimately want.

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    1. Oh I hear you Hopeful! Reassurance and avoidance are the lifeblood of my OCD symptoms. Still struggling with those all the time, to be honest. But OCD does ebb and flow and I'm hoping to be on the "ebb" part pretty soon!

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